ANTITRUST

Report: California Opens Probe Into Google For Possible Antitrust Violations

Google

The state of California has opened its own antitrust investigation into Google, sources told Politico, putting more pressure on the global technology giant already facing allegations from most U.S. states and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Last fall, an antitrust investigation against Google was unveiled with the backing of nearly every state attorney general on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Google’s home state, however, was not a participant, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has repeatedly declined to answer questions about why the state wasn’t part of that investigation, Politico reported.

Sources told the online news service that California’s antitrust inquiry is separate investigation from the multi-state effort.

A spokesperson for Becerra, Sarah Lovenheim, declined to comment, saying it is office policy to not confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

One reason California may be going its own way is the state has its own antitrust laws, and they are sometimes interpreted more broadly than the U.S. federal antitrust law, Politico reported.

But unlike federal antitrust law, California’s laws do allow government enforcers to seek restitution or civil penalties for violations.

The focus of the probe will be on whether the company has abused its position in the online advertising market by monopolizing the ad technology market and used exclusive contracts to maintain its dominance in search.

CEO Sundar Pichai has agreed to testify in front of a House Judiciary panel along with the CEOs of Apple, Amazon and Facebook.

Last month, the nation’s state attorneys general led by Texas organized their potential antitrust investigations. Critics maintain Google bundles its ad tools in a way that rivals can’t match, and its combination of search results, YouTube, Gmail and other services.

Separately the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating Google’s business practices and is considering a lawsuit against the 22-year-old Menlo Park, California, global technology giant. If successful, it would break up Google’s ad technology business.

In late June, the DOJ was said to be nearing the end of its antitrust investigation of Google.

Federal investigators have asked Google’s competitors to provide details about the alleged abuse of its advertising power by June 30. The information could be used to support a complaint against Google.

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